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Actually, for the factory workers, my guess would be that most go back to the farm. The figures I have seen was that a fifth to a third of the employees do not go back after the Tet vacation... Each year.

As for US-Walmart type work, I guess nobody in Vietnam would go for it at anything like minimum Vietnam wage. A consequence of low wages is that in most service employement (restaurants, supermarkets, even most offices) you will find about 3 times the number of employees you'd expect in the West. And that means much, much less intensive work. Much more time to take a break, etc... compared to the typically hurried service worker in the West. And even at a PPP-adjusted wage, which could be 2 or three times the VN minimum wage, you don't see people working as hard as they'd have to at Walmart.

Also, the real reason people left the countryside for the factories in the west isn't so much that they liked factories, but that there wasn't that much land available - Vietnam having had a thorough land redistribution not that long ago, land ownership is much more equal than, say, in 19th century France.

The dream in Vietnam is the small shop, not walmart. A major difference between Vietnam and the West is that startup costs for the small shop/restaurant are still very small, and usually included with having housing, whereas in the West this requires high investment, and habits and housing patterns mean people will go to the mall, not to a small shop...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Nov 8th, 2010 at 09:07:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The minimum wage in the US is $7.25. Adjusted using the PPP multiplier that would be about $3 in Vietnam.  At forty hours a week that's $120 or roughly double the monthly minimum wage in Vietnam's urban centers.  You're saying that your typical Vietnamese peasant or worker wouldn't be interested in working a moderately physically demanding and very mind numbing job at eight times the minimum wage for forty hrs/wk of work?
by MarekNYC on Mon Nov 8th, 2010 at 10:34:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
First, at PPP indeed the Walmart wage would be double the monthly minimum wage ; considering the social realities of Vietnam, Walmart would indeed be paying minimum wage, not twice the minimum wage.

And considering cost of living differential between the big city and the countryside, and the Vietnamese taste for living close to home (which remains in the countryside ; the Vietnamese don't like to be away from their ancestral home), yes, the typical peasant would rather stay on his farm, the typical worker would prefer to own a family shop.

The monthly minimum wage is not enough to live in Hanoi, for example, except in the faraway suburb ; and the combined cost of housing and the loss of the family support network means that wage isn't that attractive for someone not otherwise attracted to city life.

And anyway, at that level of wage (ie from minimum wage to 2x minimum wage), such job as parking lot attendant (which are much cosier than Walmart...) are available.

Also, the 40h Walmart job is much less attractive when you realise the flexible work hours mean an "effective length of work" away from home much closer to 50h or more.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Nov 8th, 2010 at 10:43:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's eight times the minimum wage, not double. What kind of unskilled jobs are available that pay 8x minimum wage?
by MarekNYC on Mon Nov 8th, 2010 at 10:53:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, misread the 120$ per week as 120$ per month. But PPP is a poor adjuster if it considers comparable 7.5$ in the US and 3$ in Vietnam. For similar standard of living, and considering the differences in mandatory costs between the US and Vietnam, 120$ is closer to granting the same social status in Vietnam as that of a Walmart worker in the US.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Nov 8th, 2010 at 11:06:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
PPP is simply based on prices, so it says nothing about social status. And are you saying that food, energy, transport and housing (the primary expenses for most households) are more than two and a half time cheaper in Vietnamese urban areas than in generic American sub/exurbia or rural areas?  Given the cost and necessity of cars, I wouldn't be surprised if you have a point, but cars do offer a rather big increase in quality of life to anyone who doesn't live in a very high density urban area with great public transport above and beyond the basic necessity aspect.  Also, it's not like the other stuff is a minor matter.  
by MarekNYC on Mon Nov 8th, 2010 at 11:32:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm pretty certain that food, energy, transport and housing is more than two and a half time cheaper in Vietnam than in rural US. The street restaurant serves a meal for about 75 cents, transport is done by motorbike (which you can get for a few hundred bucks, and are used all across VietNam, even the most rural parts ; after a few weeks in Vietnam, you start wondering exactly what's the point of a SUV, since the average motorbike has exactly the same uses), energy means a ventilator for A/C and some coal for cooking (plus more electricity for the TV, an impressive amount of which are large and flat) - the real expense is housing, which will require a 200$/month rental if you aren't a homeowner ; note that most people of Hanoi origins got the land (and potentially the house) for free at the time of de-collectivisation.

Another point ; you'll find quite a lot of westerners settling for 500$ to 800$ a month in Vietnam. The only problem is that a few years later they realise they can't buy a plane ticket to go back West...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Mon Nov 8th, 2010 at 12:15:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
$2000 a month ($800 x.2.5) in actual average spending will provide a quite adequate standard of living in much of the US for a childless single person absent health care costs.  
by MarekNYC on Mon Nov 8th, 2010 at 12:37:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If Walmart pays minimum wage in the US, why would they pay eight times minimum wage in Vietnam?

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by A swedish kind of death on Mon Nov 8th, 2010 at 11:24:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They wouldn't.  The original question was whether a typical Vietnamese peasant's life is better than that of a minimum wage employee in the US working at WalMart.  Linca says yes, I say no and now we're playing with numbers.
by MarekNYC on Mon Nov 8th, 2010 at 11:34:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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